Parissh Knox: A Mission to Hold People and Communities Together

Parissh Knox at DC Wall
Parrish Knox at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC.

Parissh Knox (BA AES, ’96) prefers eating family style and tends to follow his own path in life. He strives to live a life of a servant leader. Foremost, he tries to always remember his roots and how blessed his life has been. And he rarely checks “one box only” on personal information forms. As an Okinawan Black White transnational adoptee, Knox had to learn English when he came to the US as a child.  Adopted by a military family, they moved from base to base until his family reached Tacoma, which became their permanent home. 

These days, Knox is a deputy city attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney's office where he advises on land use and environmental matters.  His professional focus is on protecting the fabric of communities that keep us together: water, air, sewer, public services and infrastructure systems. In his spare time, he focuses on improving our social safety net.

Knox entered the UW with interests in the arts and architecture, but found himself seeking more. “My parents instilled strong values of compassion, and hard work,” he says. Knox now blends his interests as he finds inspiration in artists and those that work on the front line to make the world a better place.  His favorite quote about lawyers is from Clarence B. Jones (attorney for Dr. King):

Lawyers, even good lawyers, are a dime a dozen. What makes the difference is one word: integrity… And if you also remember another word: love, then you’ll be in good stead, because you can’t really be deeply committed to social justice unless you love people, unless you love changing their condition and making their lives better.

While at the UW, two amazing women inspired, mentored, and set him on a journey to be the professional he is today. The first was AES faculty member Connie So. In her Asian American studies class he found his voice, became involved in the community, and learned the power of critical thinking. The other was Cathy Allen, a political consultant for high-profile elected officials who helped him to appreciate the content, style, and delivery of messages. She also showed him life behind the curtain in politics. “Both women are true heroes who have empowered so many along the way. I remain forever grateful for their belief in me,” Knox says. “Cathy was the one boss who let me borrow the keys to her car so that I could go protest and attend community meetings at night. Connie was the one they called when the community was in trouble.”

Knox has since earned a master’s in public policy from UC Berkeley and later a law and urban planning degree from UCLA. In the last twenty years, he has worked for the California State Senate Budget Committee as a Senate Fellow, in the world of affordable housing finance and the law. He was a CORO Executive Fellow and has won numerous community awards for his work on behalf of those in need. Upon the advice of a community lawyer, he went to a large law firm to get advanced training, staying for eight years.

Knox remains committed to giving back to those in need. In 2007, the Inland Empire Legal Aid Association honored him as Rookie Pro Bone Attorney of the Year. In 2013, he was recognized for his commitment to improving the lives of foster youth. He has served on nonprofit boards and continues to provide pro-bono legal assistance to those seeking a better life. He is now a member of the State Bar’s Legal Services Trust Fund Commission, which provides funding to various legal aid organizations around the state. For fun, he also teaches a core graduate urban planning and law course at UCLA.

One day, Knox says he might want to do more international work, and perhaps by the time he’s 60, he may fulfill a dream his father had by running for office for the right reasons.  “Often making a real meaningful difference in the lives of others is not glamorous, definitely doesn’t make you wealthy, but it can leave you truly blessed and fulfilled.”

Knox looks back on Seattle and the UW fondly for all the amazing people he met and the strong role models and community leaders. “AES helped me to find my voice and to bring attention to the marginalized in our society. I am honored to have met, worked with and learned from Connie, Cathy, and all the countless others.”  

News Category: